News World Australia, the coronavirus crisis isn’t over. Latin America proves it

Australia, the coronavirus crisis isn’t over. Latin America proves it

President Jair Bolsonaro has dismissed COVID as no worse than the flu -- and Brazil's death toll keeps on rising. Photo: Getty
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As the nation’s schools, bars, cafes and restaurants gradually reopen, the average Australian may think COVID-19 is on the way out.

The reality is, the crisis is far from over.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus cases – a grim sign the worst of the pandemic is yet to come.

Global cases now stand at more than five million.

Although Australia appears to have flattened the infection rate curve, the nation is not immune to a second, deadlier outbreak.

The crisis is forcing employers to consider unconventional work schemes, state governments to employ more cleaning staff, and Australians to wave rather than hug hello.

But if case numbers appear to be slowing locally, where are these new outbreaks occurring?

Grandes problemas

Latin America, mostly.

The region accounted for about a third of the 91,000 cases reported earlier this week, with Brazil reporting more than 21,470 cases on Wednesday alone.

Europe and the United States each accounted for about 20 per cent.

“In the last 24 hours, there have been 106,000 cases reported to WHO – the most in a single day since the outbreak began,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing in Geneva on Wednesday.

“Almost two-thirds of these cases were reported in just four countries.”

Those four countries were the US, Russia, Brazil and Spain.

At this rate, Brazil is on track to have more cases than any other country except the US.

And there are some disturbing similarities between the two leaders’ handling of the crisis.

Like US President Donald Trump, Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has long rejected social distancing measures in favour of reopening the economy.

This is despite the number of cases rapidly rising to more than 293,357 cases and a death toll surpassing 18,800.

Mr Bolsonaro has also been promoting the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, the same one touted by Mr Trump as a possible cure for COVID-19 despite repeated warnings from health experts.

“The right wing take chloroquine, the left wing take Tubáina,” he said,  referring to a fizzy drink.

But Brazil isn’t the only country in Latin America struggling to contain the virus.

Peru is the second-worst hit country in Latin America, with more than 100,000 cases and a death toll surpassing 3024.

In Chile, more than 90 per cent of hospital beds in the country’s capital Santiago were full and 1000 emergency graves dug at the main cemetery.

Though many Latin American countries have benefitted from strong economic growth in recent years, the standard of living in many regions remains poor.

And the WHO is worried these nations won’t be able to cope.

“We are very concerned about rising cases in low and middle-income countries,” Dr Ghebreyesus said.